"Silence in the face of evil is itself evil; God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act." -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
"In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends." - Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is always so much we can learn from others' perspectives. I've been reading some enlightening articles on race and the Church and the history of the Church's approach toward racism. Wow. One such article is here. I also recently read Benjamin Watson's book Under Our Skin. It laid cards out on the table that I didn't know existed. There is so much I have not known, and I know I've just barely scratched the surface.
It made my heart hurt. My heart is grieved that we so often overlook and fail to address something so heinous in our society: the issue that we draw dividing lines based on the color of people's skin.
My heart is grieved that I have failed to weigh the matter and my responsibility to the Body. I have not always actively sought to understand others. I'm thinking about the saying that "You don't understand someone unless you have walked a mile in their shoes." Most of the time, I don't even look up from my own concerns. The times I seek to understand my black brothers and sisters is often after a major national tragedy. How sad is that?
I am called to more. We are called to more!
"He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8)
"All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation." (II Corinthians 5:11)
I watch my social media feed fill up with lots of opinions, and some of those aren't so great, even from my Christian friends. The posts about Muslims and immigrants seem to get me the most (as they often blanket a whole group based on the actions of some). The deafening silence of Christians who would rather ignore the reality of learned racism than confront it. Where is the love of God in that? As Mother Teresa once said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." How can I love someone if all I constantly reinforce in my heart about them is that they will take my job, or my home, or if I fear that if they have a headdress, they also have a bomb?
We can be so caught up in opinions that are heated by the political climate that we fail to see people as individuals. They become faceless, teeming masses, and when that happens, my assumptions can take center stage. And before I know it, Satan has a foothold in my mind as I fail to see the image of God in my fellow human being. He or she becomes a statistic and my compassion can be overruled by fear. If I'm not careful, I can become hardwired for fearful and defensive postures and miss the fact that God wants me to be a conduit of power and purpose.
"Well, all ____________________ are ______________." Dangerous territory right there. All Asians are smart? Blacks are...? Arabs are...? Fill in your blanks here, and think about them. What assumptions do you carry, even subconsciously? What do you think when you see a black man walking toward you at night and wearing a hoodie? Or a Arab woman in an airport in her hijab?
I was at the mall once wearing a shirt that supported a missions trip to Korea. The Korean flag was on the front of my shirt, and some guy came up to me and said, "Do you teach Karate?" REALLY?
Then there are things like: "You know how Chinese people name their children? They throw silver wear down the stairs!" "Me Chinese, me play joke. Me put pee-pee in your Coke!"
And you might say, "I'm not racist." How's your speech? Do you mock other people's cultures? Names? Accents? We can excuse a lot in the name of humor.
Church, mockery is never love. It's not borne of love or any of the other fruit of the Spirit: joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, or self-control. Could you be unwittingly contributing to the pain of another person? Or the furthering of a societal narrative that makes someone less than you? Do you let demeaning terms slip into your conversations? How about stereotypes?
These are things I am asking not just you, but myself. I want Holy Spirit to challenge every single assumption or notion I have that may block His work in me and His willingness to work through me. Words matter. They have eternal impact.
May I honor God and His image in those around me in thought, word, and deed. May I use the wisdom of Holy Spirit to engage those who are different than me, to the uttermost parts of the earth. May we, as a Church, rise up and be agents of change.